[\1 LAND &
nesota Dugout Ca
Ann Merriman, Christopher Olson, and Maritime Heritage Minnesota
Maritime Heritage Minnesota thanks the People of Minnesota for their support of the
Minnesota Historical and Cultural Heritage Grant program, part of the Clean Water,
Land and Legacy Amendment; without the MHCH Grant MHM received to do this
project, the work could not have been completed. MHM acknowledges Scott Anfinson
and Bruce Koenen of the Office of the State Archaeologist for their assistance and the
Grants Office Staff at the Minnesota Historical Society for their hard work. MHM
acknowledges Craig Johnson of Minnesota Department of Transportation for his advice.
MHM thanks the staff and volunteers of the museums and historical societies that
allowed access to the dugout canoes documented during this project: Bloomington
Historical Society (Larry Granger, John Hickman, Vonda Kelly); Chippewa County
Historical Society (Bob Berven, June Lynne); Cokato Museum (Johanna Ellison, Mike
Worcester); Dodge County Historical Society (Mary Ann Bucher, Dave Dubbels);
McLeod County Historical Society (Lori Pickell-Stangel); Minnesota Historical Society
(Dan Cagley); and the Western Hennepin County Pioneers Association (Stephanie
Ferrell, Russ Ferrin, Bob Gasch, Nancy Geng, Catherine Miller). MHM extends its
gratitude to the staff of the Hennepin County Government Center (Mark Buelt, Dean
Francart, Andy King-Scribbins, Marilee Springer, and Colleen Wallace) and that of the
Minnesota Historical Society library. MHM is grateful to Doug Pederson, Brad
Rasmussen, and Lon Redel for their knowledge and time. MHM also thanks Gretta
Becay and Dale Kovar. MHM thanks our volunteer Kelly Nehowig for his help in the
field. Lastly, MHM thanks our Board Members Steven R. Hack, Deb Handschin, and
Chair Michael F. Kramer for their continued support.
Cover: Wah-ba-sha Village on the Mississippi River 650 Miles above St. Louis. Some of the canoes depicted here are
probably dugout canoes. Watercolor by Seth Eastman around 1845 (Minnesota Historical Society, AVI 991 .85.19).
MINNESOTA HISTORICAL &
CULTURAL HERITAGE GRANTS
Ann Merriman, Christopher Olson, and Maritime Heritage Minnesota
MHM IS A 501. (c). 3 NON-PROFIT CORPORATION DEDICATED TO THE DOCUMENTATION, CONSERVATION,
AND PRESERVATION OF MINNESOTA’S FINITE MARITIME CULTURAL RESOURCES
Maritime Heritage Minnesota (MHM) recognized a gap in Minnesota's maritime history
and nautical archaeological knowledge during the Lake Minnetonka Survey 2 (LMS-2)
Project. In early May 2012, an anomaly (designated 118) recorded by the side-imaging
sonar unit appeared to be a dugout canoe resting on the bottom of the West Upper
Lake section of Lake Minnetonka. In early June 2013, MHM dove on the anomaly during
the Lake Minnetonka Nautical Archaeology 1 (LMNA-1) Project and determined
Anomaly 118 is comprised of two lines of stones. However, during the research portion
of the LMS-2 Project, MHM located photographic images of a dugout canoe removed
from Lake Minnetonka's North Arm in 1934 during low water conditions. During the
research phase of the LMNA-1 Project, MHM located the 'North Arm canoe' on exhibit
at the Western Hennepin County Pioneers Association in Long Lake. At that time, MHM
took photographs of the artifact and began formulating a research design to study that
canoe and any others located in the State of Minnesota.
The lakes and rivers where the dugout canoes documented during this project were
found and removed.
Research Design and Methodology
The Minnesota Dugout Canoe (MDC) Project was designed from information gathered
at the Office of the State Archaeologist (OSA) and the Minnesota Historical Society
(MNHS). MHM located eight dugout canoes in Minnesota museums or historical
societies and received permission from those institutions to document them. Seven of
the eight artifacts had not undergone radiocarbon testing and MHM received permission
to take small wood samples from the canoes for dating purposes. MHM measured,
photographed, and conducted condition assessments on each artifact, analyzed
accession data, searched newspapers for pertinent information, and consulted historical
accounts of Native American dugout canoe use. The wood samples for radiocarbon
dating were appropriately packaged and sent to the Beta Analytic lab in Florida for
Dugout Canoe Use in Minnesota and Wisconsin
With no supporting artifacts associated with any of the dugout canoes studied during the
MDC Project, MHM must depend on historical sources for context. Descriptions of
dugout canoes constructed and used by Native American tribes and Europeans exist
from 1835 to the early 1850s in the form of travel diaries, one of which was written in
French and Italian, and in watercolor paintings and pencil sketches by artist Captain
Seth Eastman. In 1834, George W. Featherstonhaugh traveled by steamer, train, horse,
and canoe from the East Coast to the source of the 'Minnay Sotor', or St. Peter's River.
In 1835, on his way back east, Featherstonhaugh spent time in Wisconsin and
complained about his lake travels in a dugout canoe. As he described it, it "was a
wretched, tottering affair, imperfectly hollowed out of a small log, and wabbled about in
such a doubtful manner that we had been several times near upsetting in crossing the
lake. In this 'dug-out'...l had taken my seat on the bottom near the prow, with my face
towards the stern, holding the sides with my hands" (Featherstonhaugh 1847, 102).
A rare depiction of a mid-19 th Century Minnesota dugout canoe by Seth Eastman
(Schoolcraft 1852, PI. 72.5, digitized by MHM).
Another first-hand account of dugout use in comes from Count Francesco Arese who
traveled Minnesota's waterways during 1837. At Traverse des Sioux on the Minnesota
River, known to Arese as the St. Pierre River, he traded his horse to two Native
Americans for what he described as a "small boat". However, this small boat is also
characterized as a "canoe", but it probably was not a dugout canoe because Arese
provided a detailed account of the next watercraft he used in Minnesota. He took to the
Mississippi River at the confluence with the Minnesota River in a dugout with two
Canadians. Arese described their craft as "a wooden one made of a tree trunk. It was
30 or 35 feet long and form 1/2 to 2 broad. When I was sitting on the bottom of it... I had
a hard time moving, for the great trouble with such canoes is that they are very
unsteady and a fairly heavy wave fills them at once. A person not accustomed to them
hardly dares to move; but in a short while you learn to turn in every direction without
making them lose their balance". Arese also traveled through Wisconsin, buying
passage with a Native American family in their 24-foot long birch bark canoe. Arese
contended that he found "that type of canoe far preferable to the wooden ones, because
they are more comfortable to sit in, it is easier to move about, they are less tippy, and
being infinitely lighter than the others, they always float on top of the waves and
consequently never ship water. And. ..they go faster than the others. There one bad
point is that the least blow tears them... you have to disembark when the water is
extremely shallow, to keep them from rubbing along the bottom (Arese 1934, 110, 118,
Native Americans in a dugout canoe with a traveler on the Mississippi River above Brainerd around
1880 (MNHS, E97.35r79, digitized by MHM).
An Ojibwa family with their birch bark canoe in the early 20 tn Century (MNHS, E97.35r5, digitized by
Little Crow's Village on the Mississippi. MHM contends the majority of the canoes depicted here are
dugouts due to the lack of sharply upturned ends shown. Watercolor by Seth Eastman (MNHS,
In the early 1850s, a description of Native American canoe-making was discussed
within the context of their creation as art. The process of birch bark canoe construction
was detailed step by step, and the people who made them were described as skilled
with good taste. To contrast, dugout canoes were given hardly a mention and were
characterized as "ordinary.. .made from the entire trunk". The ability to create elegant
lightweight structures such as birch bark canoes was attributed only to the Algonquian
tribes of the north and east, whereas the construction of dugout canoes was assigned
only to the "southerly and westerly tribes" (Schoolcraft 1852, 511-513, PI. 72.5). This
assertion is incorrect, since birch bark canoe making was known to the southern
Minnesota tribes by the 1830s (see Arese above) and probably earlier, with dugout
canoe construction simply being an older tradition of craft-building or utilized by less-
skilled craftsmen. However, birch bark canoes were utilized by northern tribes and
French traders in Minnesota and Canada by the late 1600s (Wheeler et al 1975, 2-4).
The construction of an Ojibwa birch
bark canoe around 1895 (MNHS,
Santee Dakota physician and author Charles Eastman (Ohiyesa) contended that Native
Americans constructed dugout canoes when birch bark was not readily available. A
suitable tree to fell would be chosen carefully, with soft maple, basswood, and
cottonwood being the most appropriate to create a craft 12-16 feet long. During the
prehistoric period the bulk of the inside of the trunk would be burned out to remove the
majority of the wood and then finished with stone tools. The outside of the hull would
have been smoothed with bone knives or sharp shells. With the introduction of metal
tools in the historic period, the tree trunk would be smoothed on the outside into a boat
shape and athwartships cuts were made about one foot apart down the length of the
log. The wood between these cuts would be split longitudinally and removed, and then
hollowed out more with a pickaxe and smoothed by a chisel. Eastman described the
thickness of the dugout canoes hull to be four to six inches and determined that knives
smoothed the outer hull. Although not mandatory, fire was sometimes used to dry the
hull and polish it. Eastman held that many Native Americans preferred dugouts to birch
bark canoes because they believed them to be faster, more durable, and in the historic
period they were easier to make due to the availability of better tools. Eastman believed
that "the forest Indian alone still clung to the bark canoe". Finally, Eastman stressed one
aspect of using dugout canoes - they were not intended for use by the novice. He
contended dugouts were "very graceful in the hands of an expert Indian canoeist"
(Eastman 1914, 49-51). This facet of craft handling might explain the derision that
Featherstonhaugh and Arese held for their dugout canoe transportation, particularly
when it was handled by Canadians.
Felling and hollowing out tree trunks using fire was the most efficient way to produce dugout canoes
during America's prehistoric period. The depiction above is the iconic image that represents the
construction of dugout canoes (Theodor de Bry in Admiranda narratio fida tamen, de commodis et
incolarvm ritibvs Virginiae , PI. XII, 1590).
A Sampling of American Dugout Canoes in Archaeological Contexts
Native American cultures from several American states have produced dugout canoes
that have survived in archaeological contexts. A brief overview of finds in Florida, North
Carolina, Wisconsin, and South Carolina provides a comparison within which to place
Minnesota's dugout canoes.
In 2000 an incredible find of 101 submerged dugout canoes in Newnans Lake in Florida,
east of Gainsville, by local residents represents what nautical archaeologists consider
the perfect site and circumstances. During drought conditions similar to those
experienced in 1930s Minnesota, the water of Newnans Lake receded to extreme lows.
Upon coming across some "flat straight pieces of wood embedded in the sand", they
contacted the Florida Office of the State Archaeologist (FOSA) in Tallahassee. State
archaeologists and a team from the Florida Museum of Natural History conducted a
several months-long excavation project, documenting "the largest known find of ancient
watercraft in the world". At the core of this successful project was the first correct action
of notifying the FOSA immediately of the existence of possible artifacts in the lake by
the concerned residents near Newnans Lake. This first significant move guaranteed the
artifacts were assessed in situ by trained professionals for the maximum amount of
information retrieval with minimal disturbance. This was extremely fortunate, for while
the combination of fresh water and mud provided for a remarkable state of preservation
of the canoes, this was only true if they were not removed from the lake. As happens
over time with shallow water areas, repeated droughts exposed the waterlogged
wooden canoes to air and when this occurred, the wood's cells shrank repeatedly
resulting in permanent collapse. The archaeologists found that they could not safely
remove any of the Newnans Lake dugout canoes. Because of this, their implemented
research design centered on documentation in situ and wood sample collection from 50
of the artifacts. The radiocarbon dates of the sampled canoes range from 500 to 5,000
years old, indicating this site was used for several millennia as a dugout canoe resting
place, and a comparison of the canoe's attributes points to a 5,000 year old maritime
tradition of watercraft construction that did not change. The Florida archaeologist have
supposed the site is a 'graveyard', the canoes may have been blown to this shoreline
over thousands of years, it may represent a dugout canoe manufacturing place, or a
combination of these scenarios (Tonnessen 2010, 68-69).
Since the significant maritime historical discovery in 2000, other dugout canoes have
been located in Florida as a result of continued drought conditions. In May 2012 a
teenager found a dugout canoe at Putnam Hall, northeast of Newnans Lake and
Gainesville, in a dry lakebed. Archaeologists were called to the site and located an
additional dugout near-by. The artifacts remained in situ but were thoroughly
documented (Crabbe 2012). In September 2013, another dugout canoe was located by
divers on SCUBA in eight feet of water in Lake Owen southeast of Gainesville and
south of the Ocala National Forest. The finders of the canoe, a seven year-old and his
grandfather, uncovered the artifact and hauled it ashore, and then informed authorities.
Reportedly the canoe is apparently drying out in controlled conditions, but without being
properly conserved using a substance such as polyethylene glycol (PEG) 1 , the artifact
will continue to deteriorate. Once dried out, it will be put on display at the Marion County
Museum of History and Archaeology, 'donated' by the finders (Medina 2013). However,
the finders had no legal right to do so since the lake bottom is State land and the canoe
should have been reported to the FOSA. Trained archaeologists would have written a
proper archaeological research design and documented the dugout in situ. Further,
significant conservation treatment funds should have been obtained before the canoe
was moved from the lake.
By 1985 less than 10 dugout canoes were known to exist in North Carolina. In that year,
Lake Phelps in Washington County was used as a source of water to fight fires. This
action significantly lowered the lake's level and prehistoric artifacts were exposed. In
November, staff from Pettigrew State Park (PSP) located a dugout canoe and staff from
the North Carolina Underwater Archaeology Unit (NCUAU) excavated the artifact and
transported it for conservation to their lab. In 1986, staff from the NCUAU and PSP,
personnel from the North Carolina Office of the State Archaeologist (NCOSA), and an
MA candidate's research team from East Carolina University (ECU) conducted various
surveys, excavations, and investigations at Lake Phelps. During these projects, an
additional 22 dugout canoes were discovered along with associated artifacts. Nineteen
of the 23 canoes were radiocarbon tested and the oldest canoe dated to 2430 BCE and
the newest to AD 1400 (Pierce 2010, 29, 31-32, 35-36, 45, 47).
A few known dugout canoes have been located in Wisconsin and a success story
comes from Lake Mary near Kenosha. A 12 year-old girl and her grandmother
discovered the dugout in 1996 and immediately contacted nautical archaeologists with
the Wisconsin Historical Society (WHS). The canoe was radiocarbon dated and was
found to be 2,000 years old, the oldest watercraft in the State. It was properly
documented, excavated, and conserved by the WHS and put on exhibit at the Kenosha
Public Museum (Wisconsin Historical Society nd). Another success story comes from a
marsh on the land of a cranberry grower who left the dugout canoe he found in situ and
contacted the WHS. The 150 year old "Cranberry Canoe" was properly documented,
excavated, conserved, and is now on exhibit at the Wisconsin Cranberry Discovery
Center in Warren (Wisconsin Cranberry Discovery Center nd). MHM commends the
finders of these artifacts for contacting the WHS promptly.
South Carolina has a number of documented dugout canoes from a variety of contexts.
One of the most interesting has been used as a decorative object on a family's lawn on
Pawley's Island near the Waccamaw River. This double-ended craft was found buried
on Myrtle Beach and was moved to its current location. The uniqueness of this historic
period canoe lies in the presence of a mast step and a stern configuration that suggests
it carried a steering oar (Harris 2002, 4-5). Since a sailing vessel would require a
steering apparatus, this supposition makes sense.
VEG is the standard treatment for the conservation of waterlogged wooden artifacts from archaeological
contexts that are not composites, meaning they are strictly comprised of wood and not a combination of
wood and metal.
Radiocarbon Dating of Dugout Canoes
During the documentation of the dugouts studied for the MDC Project, MHM collected
wood samples from seven of the eight canoes for radiocarbon testing; the eighth canoe
had previously been tested. MHM used a small drill bit to create a hole 1/4 inch deep
into the hull of each canoe and then used a smaller drill bit to deepen the hole into the
wood. This way, the small bit would produce wood shavings clear of contaminates.
Each sample collected was less than 100 mg in size and underwent Accelerated Mass
Spectrometry radiocarbon dating tests at Beta Analytic Radiocarbon Dating Laboratory
of Miami, FL. The results were presented to MHM on data sheets that listed the canoe's
'Conventional Radiocarbon Age' (CRA) in the form of a 'number of years ± a number of
years BP' (Before Present). In this context, 'Present' is the year 1950. Also provided
were a range of '2 Sigma calibrated results' in the form of ranges of calendar dates that
indicate the probability that a date range is the correct age of the sample. The 2 Sigma
results provided by the lab used the 2009 calibration database to calculate the calender
date range probabilities. MHM re-calibrated the CRA data using the 2013 calibration
database provided online by Oxford University (OxCal). The calibrated calender dates
provided below represent the date range that have the highest probabiltiy of being
correct within the technology available.
Results of the Minnesota Dugout Canoe Project
Presented here are the histories, descriptions, and radiocarbon dating results of the
eight dugout canoes documented during the MDC Project. They are ordered
chronologically from oldest to youngest.
1. Lake Minnetonka North Arm Dugout Canoe (21-HE-438)
Western Hennepin County Pioneers Association, Long Lake
During low water conditions due to a severe drought on late August 1934 Helmer
Gunnarson and his brother Arthur, sons of Gustave A. Gunnarson, discovered the Lake
Minnetonka North Arm Dugout Canoe (LMNADC) in Orono, Hennepin County.
Throughout the summer, the Gunnarson family had to construct extensions to their dock
as the water continually receded from the normal shoreline. At that time the lake level
was just over seven feet below its ordinary high water level. Helmer and Arthur had
sunk several dock pilings but one hit an obstruction 10-12 inches below the silt.
Thinking they had hit a log, they exposed the object and dragged it onto the shoreline
where they determined it was a dugout canoe. Helmer and Arthur observed that the
canoe "had been maintained in an excellent state of preservation as a result of having
been imbedded in earth and completely covered by several feet of water over an
extended period of time". The Gunnarsons attempted to have the LMNADC examined
by representatives of the University of Minnesota (UM) and the MNHS, but in the end
they gave the LMNADC to the Minnesota Archaeological Society (MAS). As a courtesy,
the society offered the elder Mr. Gunnarson an honorary membership in the MAS. At
the MAS October meeting, the LMNADC was the "main subject for discussion". The
society loaned the artifact for exhibit to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts in late 1934, the
LMNADC was shown in the MAS display within the Walker Art Gallery thereafter, and it
was on exhibit at the Minneapolis Public Library until 1961. The Western Hennepin
County Pioneer Association (WHCPA) acquired the LMNADC in 1961 from the MAS
(Gunnarson and Gunnarson 1966; McSchannock 1988; Minneapolis Institute of Arts
1934, 1; Minnehaha Watershed District 2014; Morrow 2001, 5-6; Sackett 1936, 8;
Weekly Valley Herald 1934).
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Lake Minnetonka in Hennepin and Carver Counties. The North Arm is marked in red (Postcard).
This aerial photograph of North Arm was taken on
12 September 1937. Lake Minnetonka levels were
at historic lows in 1934 and 1937. Note the
receded water (John R. Borchert Map Library).
Gustave A. Gunnarson purchased lots 10 and 11
of block 4 of the Crystal Bay View section on
North Arm on 1 5 August 1 906 for $500.00
(Hennepin County Deed, 443908; Plat System
Lake Minnetonka's water level was a major
topic of discussion during the Spring,
Summer, and Autumn of 1934. Every week
local newspapers reported the continually
falling level and criticism of decisions by
governmental officials abounded. The
cartoon to the right typifies the attitudes of
many Lake Minnetonka residents
( Minnetonka Herald 1934).
Helmer and Gustave Gunnarson removing the Lake Minnetonka North Arm Dugout Canoe from the
water in front of their cabin in August 1934. The artifact was located near the end of the Gunnarson
family dock about 90 feet from the shoreline because of receding water caused by a severe drought. In
normal conditions, the canoe would have been under several feet of water (MNHS, HE5.19p17,
digitized by MHM).
MHM documented the LMNADC at the WHCPA on 4 January 2014. In its current
condition the artifact is 11.1 feet long, 1.4 feet wide, and its depth of hold is .55 feet
deep. The artifact's sides have deteriorated and the original height of the vessel to its
gunwales is unknown. When the canoe initially left Lake Minnetonka, the ends were
more intact when compared to its current condition. Using the photographic evidence as
a guide, at least one end of the LMNADC was pointed. The bottom of the craft has a
large crack extending along its entire length, splitting it in two from amidships to one
end. This crack did not exist in 1934. The wood is dry and checked, with many loose
pieces lying inside the hull; MHM gathered several of these small pieces for wood
typing. MHM suggests the artifact be placed into an environment with controlled
humidity. The wood sample taken by MHM has a calendar age of AD 1025-1165
(930±30 BP), indicating the artifact was made by people of the Woodland Culture and
dates to the Final Late Woodland Period (Gibbon 2012, 145). MHM submitted an
archaeological site form to the OSA in mid-March 2014 and received a site number (21-
HE-438) for the LMNADC's original location at that time.
The Lake Minnetonka West Arm Dugout Canoe on exhibit at the Western Hennepin County Pioneers
Above: One end of the LMWADC clearly shows
human fashioning of the tree trunk (MHM).
Right: The wood sample from the LMWADC
prepared for radiocarbon testing (Beta Analytic).
2. Big Swan Dugout Canoe (21-ME-37)
McLeod County Historical Society 88.2266, Hutchinson
Minnesota Department of Conservation, Fish and Game Division workers snagged the
Big Swan Dugout Canoe (BSDC) while seining for carp in Big Swan Lake in Meeker
County sometime between mid-December 1957 to mid-January 1958. The artifact was
transferred to the McCleod County Historical Society (MCHS) where it has been housed
since January 1958. In 2003 the BSDC was given a site number, 21-ME-37, during a
survey of Native American artifacts found throughout the state (Hutchinson Leader
1958; The Independent Review 1958; Kotila 2012; Munter 2003). The acquisition of the
site number was possible because the State workers recorded the artifact's exact
location on the bottom of the lake when it was removed. In 2012 the MCHS had a
radiocarbon test conducted on a sample of BSDC's wood and it has a calendar age of
AD 1039-1 21 0 2 (900±30 BP).
Left: The Big Swan Dugout Canoe site is marked by the red X (US Geologic Survey [USGS] 1982).
Right: The Big Swan Dugout Canoe as it looked just after it was removed from the Meeker County lake
(The Independent Review 1958).
MHM documented the BSDC on 22 December 2013. The artifact is 14.25 feet long,
1 .95 feet wide, has a .6-foot depth of hold amidships, and the canoe's sides are mostly
deteriorated. The outer hull of the BSDC is rough, with numerous knots from the source
tree still visible. This attribute may indicate that the canoe was hastily constructed since
2 The calibrated 2 Sigma calendar age for the BSDC was calculated to be AD 1030-1220 in 2010.
However, MHM re-calibrated the data using the 2013 standard to refine the date to AD 1039-1210.
the builder did not spend time to fashion a sleek hull that would move more efficiently
through the water; the builder might have been short on time and needed a watercraft
quickly. Both ends appear to have been carved to points but their original configuration
cannot be determined. The artifact is in need of stablization since it is severely checked
and its fragmentation is on-going. Further, a large section at one end of the canoe has
broken off and has not been re-attached properly. The artifact is not stored in a
controlled environment and is on the museum's floor where people can sit down or step
on it. MHM contends the artifact was made by people of the Woodland Culture and
dates to the Final Late Woodland Period (Gibbon 2012, 145).
The Big Swan Dugout Canoe on exhibit at the McCleod County Historical Society (MHM).
These two views of one end of the Big Swan Dugout Canoe illustrate the rounded nature that the
original tree trunk was carved into by its builder (MHM).
3. Chippewa River Dugout Canoe
Chippewa County Historical Society 85.3.1, Montevideo
The Chippewa River Dugout Canoe (CRDC) was discovered in 1867 or 1868 by Ole
Torgerson in the section of the Chippewa River that ran through his farm in west central
Chippewa County. It is unclear whether the CRDC was in the river or covered in soil on
the riverbank. Mr. Torgerson stored the artifact until 1878 when the development of an
oxbow forced him to move to the west side of the river south of the new oxbow lake.
Mr. Torgerson placed the artifact in a newly constructed shed and it remained there until
the 1960s, more than four decades after Mr. Torgerson's death in 1918. Relative Lyle
Torgeson 3 moved the CRDC from its resting place of over 80 years, the shed now part
of an abandoned farmstead, and place it into another shed where it remained for nearly
25 years. Upon Lyle's death, the CRDC was purchsed by the Chippewa County
Historical Society (CCHS) for its collection in 1985 (Olson 1982; CRDC Accession File).
Ole Torgerson owned nearly 228 acres in Township
1 1 8 North, Range 41 West, Section 3 in west central
Chippewa County. His land contained a portion of
the Chippewa River, marked here in red. MHM
cannot pin-point where Mr. Torgerson found the
Chippewa River Dugout Canoe but it was
somewhere in the river channel, including the oxbow
cut-off (Northwest Publishing Company 1900, 18).
When MHM documented the CRDC 17 December 2013 with the assistance of MHM
volunteer Kelly Nehowig, a sign accompanied it that read "This canoe was owned by
Ole Torgerson. He built it from a cottonwood tree". Regardless of this information, MHM
documented, measured, and took a small wood sample from the CRDC. It is 12.2 feet
long, 1.74 feet wide, has a .96 foot depth of hold, has a 'handle' inserted through one
end, and a thwart was nailed onto the the other end to serve as a seat or back support.
These two attributes support the suggestion that Mr. Torgerson built the canoe during
his lifetime. However, the calendar date of the CRDC's construction is AD 1436-1522
(400±30 BP), indicating it is from the Late Prehistoric Period and is supported by
information recently gathered by the CCHS (CRDC Accession File). The artifact
displays numerous tool marks throughout the inner hull, left behind by the stone
implements used to carve out the tree. MHM contends that even though the craft is a
canoe, it seems to have a bow and stern, with one end pointed and the other rounded.
Whether the artifact's maker intended each end to serve specifically as a bow or stern is
unknown. The CRDC is stable and in excellent condition and considering its post-river
recovery existence stored in uncontrolled environments. What MHM considers the bow
is cracked, however, and the 'handle' has been bored through the cracked portion. To
maintain the health of the artifact, MHM suggests the canoe be placed in an
environment with humidity controls. The canoe's Chippewa River provenience in west
central Chippewa County places the artifact in the Prairie Lake Region and possibly the
3 At some point the family name of Torgerson changed for some members to Torgeson and while it seems
Ole Torgerson did not officially change the spelling of his name, his gravestone does reflect the change.
Plains Village Tradition, a supposition based on its geographic position and age
(Anfinson 1997, 119, 121; Holley and Michlovic 2013, 5-7, 34). MHM contends that the
'stern thwart' (attached to the artifact with wire nails from the 20 th Century) and possibly
the 'bow handle' were attached to the CRDC by Mr. Torgerson or his relatives.
Above: The 'bow' end of the CRDC has a 'handle'
inserted into a hole bored through the hull (MHM).
Inset: Wood sample collected for radiocarbon
testing (Beta Analytic).
Right Top: Another view of the 'bow' end with the
Right Bottom: The 'stern' end of the CRDC that
has a 'thwart' attached at the gunwale (MHM).
The 'stern thwart' is attached to the rounded hull
with wire nails and is an obvious 20 th Century
additon to the artifact. Note the tool marks on the
bottom of the hull (MHM).
The 'bow' end of the CRDC was carved to a point
and is tcker than the hull's sides. Note the tool
marks on the bottom of the hull (MHM).
4. Minnesota River Dugout Canoe (21 -CP-72)
Chippewa County Historical Society 1998-0483, Montevideo
In February 1982 Minnesota River canoe paddlers Doug Pederson and Wendell
Peterson noticed the pointed end of a dugout canoe protruding from the shallow water
in the river channel. This section of the river was not frozen, even in February, probably
due to its position south of the Churchill Dam. In mid-July 1982, Pederson and Peterson
returned to the site and with the help of Lon Redel and Brad Rasmussen, removed the
Minnesota River Dugout Canoe (MRDC) from the sandy bottom. They tied the artifact
with ropes in order to keep its shape and transferred it to Pederson's garage. At that
time they contacted the MNHS and on the advice of the society's personnel, kept the
artifact wet ( American-News 1982). Questions of MRDC's ownership rightly were raised
when authorities from the MNHS and the OSA studied the artifact in August 1982.
Firstly, the archaeologists stressed the fact that legally, removal of an archaeological
resource from state-owned land such as the bottom of the Minnesota River required an
OSA-issued license, as well as appropriate training and credentials. Therefore, the
MRDC was a state-owned artifact that was illegally removed from state land. However,
the OSA allowed the Chippewa County Historical Society's Pioneer Village to accession
the MRDC into its collection while the OSA and MNHS archaeologists oversaw the PEG
conservation treatment of the artifact (Wanke 1982).
The red X marks the Minnesota River Dugout
Canoe site as told to MHM by Lon Redel,
Doug Pederson, and Brad Rasmussen. The
site is in Township 118 North, Range 42 West,
Section 24 (USGS 1958b).
This image was taken in
February 1982 on the day the
MRDC was located south of
Churchill Dam. This photograph
was taken from the west bank of
the Minnesota River in Lac Qui
Parle County looking east
toward Chippewa County. The
red circle indicates the position
of the dugout canoe (courtesy of
Digging out the MRDC from the
river (MRDC Accession File).
The MRDC came out of the
Minnesota River in pieces
(MRDC Accession File).
Left: Doug Pederson, Lon Redel, and Brad Rasmussen after they transported the canoe from the
Minnesota River (MRDC Accession File).
Right: Preparing the MRDC for immersion in PEG (MRDC Accession File).
MHM documented the MRDC 17 December 2013 with the assistance of MHM volunteer
Kelly Nehowig. The artifact is 14.75 feet long, 1.75 feet wide, amidships it has an 11.5-
inch depth of hold, and a small wood sample was taken. The MRDC has two distinct
pointed ends, indicating that either end could serve as the bow or stern, although one
end is a bit wider, suggesting a stern. The canoe has significant cracks along its sides
and bottom but as it rests in a support cradle, it is stable. Sections of the artifact are
being held to each other with wooden dowels inserted into the broken ends. Tool marks
are evident throughout the inner hull. MHM examined the wood's consistency and it
does appear that the interior of the artifact is soft in places. The artifact may have not
dried properly after the PEG treatment during the conservation process or its vitrine is
not allowing for controlled humidity. In regards to the MRDC's age, the wood sample
has a calendar age of AD 1626-1679 (250±30 BP), placing it in the Protohistoric to Early
Historic Periods, spanning what is considered the pre-contact and early post-European
contact era. It is probable that the MRDC is of the late Mississippian Culture, but without
supporting diagnostic artifacts this is a supposition based on its age. Geographically the
MRDC is in the Prairie Lake Region of study (Holley and Michlovic 2013, 5-6; Johnson
1988, 25). MHM sent images of the canoe's tool marks to MAS President and flint
knapper Rod Johnson. He conducted a brief experiment for MHM and used a stone tool
he fashioned out of chert and achieved very similar results to the marks on the MRDC
(Rod Johnson, personal communication, 26 March 2014). Mr. Johnson's efforts suggest
that while the canoe may have been constructed in the Early Historic Period, it was
probably created using stone tools as opposed to metal implements. Lon Redel, Doug
Pederson, and Brad Rasmussen assisted MHM in pin-pointing the precise location
where the MRDC was removed from the river and photographic evidence supports their
assertions. MHM submitted an archaeological site form to the OSA in late March 2014
and received a site number (21 -CP-72) for the MRDC's original location at that time.
Above: One end of the MRDC is cracked and
open, but still comes to a point (by Kelly
Left: This end of the MRDC is cracked but not broken
apart. The craft's point is still intact (MHM)
Right: The wood sample taken from
the MRDC for radiocarbon testing
Both ends of the MRDC show the artifact is in pieces (by Kelly Nehowig).
The different pieces of the dugout are held Stone tool marks are clearly evident in the inner
together by dowels inserted into the ends of the hull of the MRDC (MHM).
sections (by Kelly Nehowig).
5. C. Maki Dugout Canoe (21-AK-bs),
Cokato Museum 76.4, Cokato
The C. Maki Dugout Canoe (C.MDC) was found by fisherman Chester Maki in 1973 in
Aitkin County's Dutch Lake. Mr. Maki owned a cabin near the lake and while fishing,
noticed what he thought was a burned log in shallow water in the weeds. Upon getting
close to the object, he realized it was a dugout canoe and pulled the artifact from the
lake. He dried out the C.MDC and in 1976 donated it to the Cokato Museum. During a
2009 Native American artifact inventory project, Dassel Area Historical Society
volunteers compiled historical data about the C.MDC and completed a site form for it
with the assistance of the OSA. Since the artifact's exact location in Dutch Lake could
not be ascertained, the C.MDC was given an 'alpha designation' (21-AK-bs) by the OSA
in 2009 (Munter and Koenen 2009; Munter and Ruotsinoja 2009).
Dutch Lake is in Salo Township, southwest
of McGregor in Aitkin, Township 47 North,
Range 22 West, Sections 16, 17, and 20. It
is apparent that the lake's shoreline has
changed over time as indicated by the dotted
lines (Rockford Map Publishers 1972, 37).
A7/s?n Csso ~A*
MHM documented and took a small wood sample from the C.MDC on 22 December
2013. The artifact is 13.65 feet long, 1.56 feet wide, has a .58-inch depth of hold
amidships, and the canoe's sides are mostly deteriorated. Regardless of the incomplete
nature of the C.MDC, MHM contends it had two pointed ends and it is in stable
condition, apparently drying out slowly enough not to cause an excessive amount of
wood cell shrinkage. The small wood sample taken from the C.MDC has a calendar age
of AD 1770-1830 (150±30 BP). This date range and the artifact's location in Aitkin
County supports MHM's supposition, with no diagnostic artifacts associated with the
C.MDC for comparison, that the canoe was made by people of the Ojibwa culture during
the European Contact Period (Blegen 1963, 21-23).
The C. Maki Dugout Canoe on exhibit at the Cokato Museum (MHM).
Inset: The wood sample collected from the C.MDC for radiocarbon testing (Beta Analytic).
6. Minnesota River Valley Dugout Canoe
Bloomington Historical Society 64-1, Bloomington
Bloomington farmer George Hopkins found the Minnesota River Valley Dugout Canoe
(MRVDC) sometime between 1966 and 1968, with reports that the year was specifically
1967. Reportedly the artifact was "sticking out horizontally from the river bank a few feet
from the bluff" in the Minnesota River Valley, indicating the water channel was either at
a low phase or had shifted. However, part of the MRVDC museum display referred to its
location as being "found in dry creek bed on hopkins [sic] farm east of lyndale [sic] ave
[sic]". The Hopkins farm was located on the east side of Lyndale Avenue, but the
location of the artifact may not have been part of the farm's land. During periods of
increased precipitation or during a snow melt, a fork of Nine Mile Creek still flows under
and to the east of Lyndale Ave and acts as drainage into the Minnesota River. If the
MRVDC was imbedded in this creek bed's bank or in a section of the river that had dried
up, it may have been on Federal or City-owned land when found, but this cannot be
confirmed (Plat Systems Services 1961). The MRVDC was taken to the Bloomington
Historical Society (BHS). The artifact was treated with applied layers of PEG while it sat
in a bed of sand in the basement of the BHS. MHM contends that this treatment would
not be entirely effective, since the standard treatment for waterlogged wood using PEG
is prolonged submersion in the liquid with ever increasing concentrations of PEG to
water, and then slowly drying the artifact in a humidity chamber. Since the PEG would
need to impregnate the artifact's wood cells, the bottom of the MRVDC would not have
been affected since it was lying in sand. The artifact was on exhibit at the BHS until
2007. At that time the wood's consistency was described as "spongy", and the MRVDC
underwent Acryloid B72 4 conservation treatment for stabilization and it was cleaned of
sand. The MRVDC was placed on exhibit at the BHS at the conclusion of the artifact's
conservation in November 2010 (MRVDC 64-1 Accession File; Smetanka 2010).
MHM documented and took a small wood sample from the MRVDC on 11 January
2014. The artifact is 12.55 feet long, is 2.45 feet wide, and has a .59-foot depth of hold.
Both ends of the canoe are deteriorated so its bow and stern configurations cannot be
determined. The sides of the MRVDC are also deteriorated and the artifact is stable, but
its position on the museum's floor in an uncontrolled environment is a cause for
concern, particularly since people can sit down or step on it. The artifact has a calendar
age of AD 1790-1850 (130±30 BP). Based on the artifact's original location in the
Minnesota River Valley in Bloomington and its date range of creation, MHM contends
the MRVDC was made and used by the Dakota people during the European Contact
Period with a brief over-lap in the post-Contact Period (Gibbon 2003, 2-3, 56).
The Minnesota River Valley Dugout
Canoe on exhibit at the Bloomington
Historical Society (MHM).
The wood sample taken from the
MRVDC (Beta Analytic).
4 Acryloid B72 is a polymer used to consolidate and stabilize fragile wood.
7. Rice Lake Dugout Canoe
Dodge County Historical Society 90.23.1, Mantorville
The details of the discovery of the dugout canoe held by the Dodge County Historical
Society (DCHS) are unknown. However, accession information from the DCHS
indicates it was found in Rice Lake. Rice Lake is located in the easternmost portion of
Dodge County and the westernmost portion of Steele County. It is unknown who found
the Rice Lake Dugout Canoe (RLDC), but it was transferred to the farm of Lester Gripp
in Dodge County and from there, it was given to Harley Linder, then to Lil Cartwright,
and then to Jerry and Judy Sowieja. The Sowiejas donated the artifact to the DCHS in
early 1990 (Ballard 1990; RLDC 90.23.1 Accession File). MHM documented and took a
small wood sample from the RLDC on 27 December 2013. The artifact is 12.67 feet
long, has a 1.6 foot beam, and since its sides are missing, it has no depth of hold but
the bottom thickness is .29 inches. Regardless of the fragmentary nature of the artifact,
there is enough material to conclude that both ends of the canoe were pointed and had
a hard chine. 5 There are large tool marks evident throughout the inside bottom of the
hull that are not smoothed out. This may indicate that the artifact was not used enough
during its working life to 'smooth-out' from use. The RLDC is in stable condition and a
small wood sample taken from the canoe has a calendar age of AD 1790-1850 (130±30
BP). This time span coupled with the probable Rice Lake provenience indicates the
RLDC was constructed by the Dakota people during the European Contact Period with
a brief over-lap in the post-Contact Period (Gibbon 2003, 2-3, 56).
Rice Lake, along with a substantial amount of swamp land
that drains into it lies mostly in Steele County. However, the
eastern edge of the lake and a significant swamp on its
northeastern shoreline lie in Dodge County. MHM cannot
determine in what county or section of the lake the Rice Lake
Dugout Canoe was found (USGS 1962).
The wood sample taken from the RLDC for
radiocarbon testing (Beta Analytic).
The Rice Lake Dugout Canoe on exhibit at the Dodge County Historical Society (MHM).
5 A chine is the point where the hull sides and bottom of a watercraft meet.
One end of the RLDC can be investigate from both sides. The pointed nature of the dugout is apparent
along with evidene of scuffs and tool marks (MHM).
The other end of the RLDC is also pointed and
has survived a bit more intact (MHM).
Along the bottom of the inside hull, tool marks are
visible throughout, giving the artiact a rough
8. Lake Auburn Dugout Canoe
Minnesota Historical Society #9827, St. Paul
The accounts surrounding the discovery of the Lake Auburn Dugout Canoe (LADC) vary
depending on the recollections of the people involved. Contemporary reports intially
claimed the LADC was discovered on 21 May 1933 but it was revealed that the canoe
was spotted in the autumn of 1932. Henry Fink owned the land near where he, Charles
Shonka, and Jack Shonka saw the "tip of the craft protruding from the swampy ground
next to the lake". According to this account, the three men returned to the site within a
few weeks to remove the LADC and at that time recognized it as a dugout canoe. Mr.
Fink contended that the LADC had been pushed to the surface of the swamp by frost.
He also claimed to have found another wrecked boat and other artifacts such as barrel
staves, curved pieces of wood, and one burned pointed wooden object. Mr. Fink
believed that he had located an accident scene that might have involved the other
small boat and the LADC. Speculation about how the canoe found its way to Lake
Auburn included theories that the craft came from around Lake Minnetonka or traveled
up the Mississippi River and was portaged to the small lake. Other speculation
concerned the LADC's age and theories took into account the 50 years the Fink family
had owned their land, as well as how it might have been carved with a stone tool. A
date of 75 years old was suggested but the supposition that a stone tool was used to
fashion the canoe suggests earlier Native American origins. Yet an 'expert', a local
judge, contended it was fashioned by people of European origin because of the tools
used and the fact that it could still be used on the lake if necessary. Furthermore, one
newspaper reported that Henry's father George Fink owned the land on the lake and
found the LADC, but he died in 1929 (Find A Grave 2012a, 2012b; Minnetonka Record
1933; Weekly Valley Herald 1933a, 1933b). However, another version of the LADC's
discovery was given five decades later in the reminiscenses of Marjorie Shonka Kuschill
to her daughter. Marjorie was a child in charge of rowing the fishing boat for her dad
Jack Shonka and her Uncle Charlie on Lower Lake Auburn, where both men rented
cabins from Henry Fink. One of the fishing lines "caught on something protruding from
the water.. .the line was caught on a round, pointed object". Marjorie's dad and uncle
told Mr. Fink about their discovery and according to her, "some time passed before it
was finally removed from the rushes, where it was buried except for the pointed ends"
This 1925 plat map of the Lake Auburn area in
Carver County displays the large sections of land
owned by Henry Fink's father George. This land
transferred to Henry after his father's death
(Hudson Map Company 1925, 23).
In the latter 20 th Century, the central portion of
Lake Auburn is swampy and shallow, separating
the water into two sections. The approximate
location where the LADC was pulled from the lake
is circled in red (USGS 1958a).
The Lake Auburn Dugout Canoe was removed from this site in the marsh on the east side of the lake
during low water. The distance of open water from the canoe's location upholds the version of the
object's discovery by Mr. Fink and the Shonka brothers, not that of Marjorie (OSA Dugout Canoe File,
digitized by MHM).
The LADC after it was removed from Lake Auburn, resting on Henry Fink's land. Tools marks are
visible on the outer hull (MNHS HE5.19p18, digitized by MHM).
The inner hull of the LADC and its thick gunwales
are deary seen here. One end can be described as
pioined (closer to the camera) while the other is
more rounded (OSA Dugout Canoe File, digitized by
Regardless of the actual story surrounding the removal of the LADC from Lake Auburn,
an attempt to sell it makes the story more interesting. A man named John Pewters of St.
Paul made an effort on behalf of Henry Fink to sell the LADC to Henry Ford for his
newly-developed museum in Dearborn, Ml. Mr. Pewters described Lake Auburn and the
canoe, and cited representatives of the MNHS and the UM as to its age and condition.
Mr. Pewters also advised Mr. Fink not to accept less than $500.00 for the dugout canoe
because if Mr. Ford wanted the object, "he will pay that much, and it is worth it for his
kind of a collection, and he certainly can afford that price. ..if Ford dont [sic] come
through we can then get some other wealthy people interested, many of whom buy
things of that sort and then turn around and donate them to museums and get their
name placed thereon as the donors". Mr. Pewters consigned wood samples from the
LADC to the Minnesota Department of Forestry and the United States Division of
Forestry for identification. The Minnesota sample was routed to the Division of Forestry
in the Department of Agriculture at the University of Minnesota. Both samples tested at
the labs were identified as red oak. Henry Ford did not purchase the LADC but it was
exhibited by the MAS at the 1934 Sportsman's Show as a "prime attraction", at the
Walker Art Gallery, and Dayton's department store. Mr. Fink continued to store the
LADC on his farm and traveled to different towns to exhibit it. In July 1960, after Henry
Fink's death, his niece donated the LADC to the MNHS and it was accessioned as
#9827 (Klammerer 1934-1935, 88-89; LADC #9827 Accession File; Morrow 2001, 5;
Paul 1933; Pewters 1933a-d; Rees 1933; St. Paul Dispatch 1960; Woolworth 1960).
MHM documented and took a small wood sample from the LADC on 10 January 2014
at the MNHS. The canoe is stored on a high shelf, so measurements of it were not
possible, but when found it was reported to be 16 feet long, 26 inches wide, with a 16
inch depth of hold ( Minnetonka Record 1933). The LADC is complete, with intact sides
and tool marks evident throughout. The wood sample taken from the LADC has a
calendar age of AD 1920-1933 (0±30 BP), obviously indicating that the dugout canoe
was fashioned by a person from the Lake Auburn area near the time it was found.
Without more evidence, MHM will not make suppositions as to who constructed the
LADC, who placed it into the lake, or why they did so. Contemporary accounts stressed
that the Fink family had owned the land for over 50 years but had never noticed the
dugout in the swamp during that time. MHM contends the canoe classifies as a forgery
and at best, a replica. It is not an artifact. The intent of its maker was to deceive anyone
who found the craft into perceiving it to be artifactual and constructed by Native
Americans. However, considering its age, it is now an antique and is a European
American's 20 th Century interpretation of the appearance of a Native American dugout
The Lake Auburn Dugout Canoe is stored at the MNHS on a high shelf alongwith other canoes. Dan
Cagley (pictured) of the MNHS assisted MHM in reaching the watercraft to take a sample and
photographs by using a hydraulic lift (MHM).
The LADC is in good condition and
is in safe storage. These
photographs clearly show the tool
marks visible on the ojbect in the
1933 photographs (MHM).
The wood sample collected from the
LADC for radiocarbon testing (Beta
An artist's watercolor rendering of dugout canoe construction (Klammerer 1934-1935, 88).
Going forward, MHM is optimistic that in the future, any dugout canoes located by
Minnesotans in our lakes and rivers will be left in situ and not disturbed. Through the
promotion of the results of this project, MHM is confident that the finders of these
maritime cultural resources will contact the OSA and report the artifact's location in
order for nautical archaeologists to document them properly. A precedent for this action
occurred in 1969 with the discovery of a dugout in Twin Lakes in the Rice Lake National
Wildlife Refuge in Aitkin County. The finders of the artifact could not properly care for
the canoe and rightly placed it back in the lake, burying it under silt. Unfortunately the
dugout canoe's 'new' location was not recorded (US Fish and Wildlife Service nd; Walt
Ford, personal communication, 5 February 2014). Through research, MHM was able to
locate the LMNADC and the MRDC sites and acquire archaeological site numbers for
them 6 ; this is a positive step toward placing the artifacts into their proper provenience
and providing context to the information gathered about them. Accomplishing this feat
for all of Minnesota's dugout canoes, those found in the past and in the future, would
greatly enhance the maritime historical and nautical archaeological information gathered
about these rare artifacts.
Remarkably, with only seven Native American dugout canoe examples studied so far,
they come from five cultures, five time periods spanning nearly 1,000 years, and five
geographic areas. MHM was able to determine the exact locations where two of the
dugout canoes were pulled from their submerged sites and as a result, Minnesota
archaeological site numbers were acquired for them through the OSA. The two oldest
canoes, the LMNADC and BSDC, have carved ends that are bluff (rounded) with a soft
chine. Further, the 1934 photograph of the LMNADC indicates that it probably had a
definite bow and stern that are suggestive of the next oldest canoe, the CRDC. The
current condition of the LMNADC does not relfect this similiarity, but it appears that one
end of the inner hull was wider and more bluff, like the CRDC. The CRDC's ends exhibit
what could be called partially-hard chines - not hard (sharp) but not rounded - a kind of
intermediate form. The design of this canoe clearly suggests a bluff and wider stern
coupled with a defined pointed bow. Moving on to the next oldest dugout, the MRDC,
both its pointed ends are similar to the bow of the CRDC, although the ends are carved
more thinly resulting in a lighter canoe. However, the MRDC does not exhibit a hard
chine at either end, and this attribute is suggestive of the construction of the LMNADC
and the BSDC. The bow design of the CRDC - pointed with a defined somewhat hard
chine - would allow the watercraft to move more swiftly through water since there was
less drag from the submerged section of the bow. The fact that this trait was not
incorporated into the MRDC is interesting, with one explanation being that its maker
was less-skilled than the CRDC's maker. Unfortunately, the ends of the C.MDC and the
MRVDC have not survived and cannot be analyzed. The newest dugout canoe, the
RLDC, clearly incorporates hard chines on both ends. While either end could be used
as the bow or stern, one end is a bit broader, suggesting the stern. The RLDC would
have moved swiftly through the water with less drag than the other examples. MHM is
eager to document more dugout canoes and place them temporally, stylistically, and
6 MHM also submitted site form updates to the OSA regarding the BSDC, whose original site has an
archaeological site number, and the C.MDC, whose original site has an alpha designation number.
geographically into the system just established through the comparison of the seven
examples discussed here.
The ability to determine the probable age ranges for the dugout canoes documented
during this study enabled MHM to begin a database of these artifacts and their
characteristics. The age of the artifacts, the attributes they exhibit, the geographic
locations where they were discovered, and their condition further our knowledge about
the people who constructed and used this early form of Minnesota waterborne
transportation. The age ranges of the dugout canoes, AD 1025-1933, encompass nearly
the last 1,000 years of Minnesota's maritime history. Tool marks on both prehistoric and
historic canoes are tangible remnants of the actual production process, and their
geographic locations indicate the cultural background of their creators depending on
their age. The information accumulated during this project builds upon itself and the
attributes recorded from each dugout canoe provides starting points for future artifact
MHM recommends the continued study of dugout canoes throughout Minnesota as they
are located. Seven prehistoric and historic dugout canoe examples documented during
this project (the questionable nature and calendar age of the LADC prohibits its
inclusion in the same category as the other canoes) presents a small sample.
Documenting and radiocarbon testing this group of artifacts is a good beginning, but
more research must be conducted. During this project MHM confirmed the existence of
three more dugout canoes with Minnesota origins already removed from lakes or rivers.
One artifact is in Beltrami County (Dan Karalus, personal communication, 21 February
2014), one is in Blue Earth County (Jessica Potter, personal communication, 14
January 2014), and the Harold Warp Pioneer Village in Nebraska holds one with Wright
County provenience (Monica, Harold Warp Pioneer Village Foundation, personal
communication, 8 March 2014). MHM would also consider taking another wood sample
from the LADC to confirm the 'modern' date of the watercraft.
MHM has located references to other Minnesota dugout canoes, including two from
Lake Traverse (OSA Dugout Canoe File), one from Winsted Lake (Aulwes et al 2013,
40; Scherer 2011), and one from the Mississippi River in the flour mill district of
Minneapolis (St. Paul Globe 6.13.1890; Weekly Northwestern Miller 6.20.1890). The
existence of these artifacts is in question, as they might have been destroyed through
neglect. MHM supports the relocation of the dugout canoe in Twin Lakes with the
knowledge that any work conducted in the Rice Lake National Wildlife Refuge requires
a Federal permit and permission. To find the canoe in Twin Lakes, MHM may have to
use sonar or a sub-bottom profiler in addition to SCUBA. MHM does not advocate
removing the dugout canoe from Twin Lakes, but an in situ documentation and sample
collection for radiocarbon dating is warranted. Removing the artifact from the lake would
require a detailed research plan acceptable to the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the
Rice Lake National Wildlife Refuge, funds to use an appropriate conservation facility
and proper treatment with PEG, and a storage or display venue must agree to accept
the canoe into their collection prior to its excavation.
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